Unforgettable Travel Company

For many people, there may be complex associations with Vietnam. You may have grown up in a time when Vietnam featured heavily on the nightly news – rarely if ever in a good light. Thankfully, Vietnam today is a vibrant, modern, and very welcoming destination, bearing almost no relation to the Vietnam of the 1960s and 1970s. 

With the ‘American War’ still well within living memory however there are many museums, landmarks, and other sites of interest to explore throughout the country, should this be of interest to you. In this guide, we’ll look at the most important sites in Vietnam to learn more about the War, each of which can be easily added to your tailor-made tour.

Bomb Shelter at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

Hanoi

Sofitel Metropole Hotel

A property steeped in history, the Metropole first opened its doors in 1901 and has played a key part in the ever-changing history of its locale. As well as hosting Trump and Kim’s infamous ‘Hanoi Summit’ in 2019, it also rehoused no less than 15 international embassies during the ‘American War’. 

Today the hotel is the most luxurious and atmospheric in the city. It’s our first pick for any client, and we encourage guests to partake of the hotel’s daily ‘Paths of History’ tour, where you’ll learn more about the history of the hotel and visit its recently excavated underground bomb shelter.

Entrance to former Hoa Lo Hanoi Hilton prison in Hanoi

Hanoi

Hanoi Hilton

The Hoa Lo prison – more famously known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ – sits in the heart of Hanoi city center and is an easy addition to any city tour. The original Vietnamese name translates almost literally as ‘hell’, which gives you some idea of the conditions inmates were treated to!

Originally built by the French under colonial rule, it was repurposed by North Vietnamese forces to house captured prisoners of war, including former senator and US presidential candidate John McCain. Although the original prison has since been demolished, the gatehouse still stands and is open as an intriguing, if gruesome, museum.

Imperial Citadel Hue

Hue

Imperial Citadel

For history buffs, especially those with a keen interest in the War then an extended stay in Hue is a must. This historic city in the center of Vietnam played a key role in the conflict, with numerous important sites both within and around the city. 

Hue’s Imperial Citadel – built by the Nguyen Dynasty in 1800 as the then capital of Vietnam – was seized by the Viet Minh in 1947. The ensuing six-week battle with the French destroyed much of Hue, and lead directly to the eventual US involvement some years later.

In 1968 it was again the epicenter of fighting, this time in the five-week Tet Offensive. Thankfully much of the Citadel survived – although you’ll find it riddled with shell damage and bullet holes – with the remainder still being re-built and restored today

Vinh Moc Tunnels former DMZ central Vietnam

Near Hue

DMZ & Vinh Moc Tunnels

An easy day trip from Hue takes you into the tropical countryside between the coastal city and the Laos border. In the heart of the conflict, this area along the 17th parallel formed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam. 

Among several key sites explored on any day trip will be the Vinh Moc Tunnels. Unlike Viet Cong-built Cu Chi Tunnels down in Ho Chi Minh City, those in Vinh Moc were built by civilians, with as many as 300 Vietnamese living here – 30 meters underground – during the peak of the fighting.

Former Khe San Airfield Quang Tri Province

near Hue

Khe San Air Base

A short distance on from the DMZ and Vinh Moc is the former US Air Base of Khe San – a name known around the world during the Tet Offensive. Just 15km from the Laos border, Khe San saw some of the most intense fighting of the entire war, with the US Air Force eventually abandoning the site in July 1968. 

Today much of the site has been lost to the jungle, but there is a small museum to visit and also several Air Force relics – including two helicopters, a large transport plane, and numerous bunkers and and artillery – standing poignantly amongst the overgrowth.

My Khe China Beach in Danang Vietnam

Danang

China Beach

Known locally as My Khe Beach, this 20-mile stretch of white sand coast saw the very last landing of United States Marines on the morning of 8th March 1975. It continued to be a key site for the US forces for the duration of the war, with its pristine sands and good surfing and sunbathing seeing it used as an R&R destination throughout.

Located immediately north of the busy port city of Da Nang, China Beach today is reinvented as a high-end tourist destination, with several excellent luxury resorts, greeting shopping and dining, and proximity to the UNESCO-protected ancient port of Hoi An.

Abandoned Outbuildings at the Con Dao Prison Con Son

Con Son

Con Dao Prison

Famed for its pristine beaches and rugged, untamed scenery, a visit to Con Dao is principally all about rest and relaxation. Should you be looking for activities during a stay however, an eye-opening visit can be taken to the infamous Con Dao prison. Built and run originally by French colonialists, the prison was taken over by the US Army during the war and used to house Vietnamese POWs – in truly appalling conditions.

The prison and its notorious ‘Tiger Cages’ were visited by a delegation of press and Congressmen in 1970, with photographs subsequently published in Life magazine helping to build anti-war sentiment back in the US.

War Remnants Museum Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

War Remnants Museum

This museum is a sobering visit, with relics and objects recovered from the war sitting alongside gruesome unfiltered photography exhibits. It’s not a visit for the faint-hearted, but important to grasp the true scale and tragedy of the War. 

With a complete visit requiring around an hour, the War Remnants Museum is typically included on a half-day tour of the city. Nearby you can also visit the Reunification Palace, where tanks crashed through the gates on April 30th 1975, completing the Fall of Saigon and finally concluding the war.

Tourist at the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

Cu Chi Tunnels

Located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, accessed by a thrilling speedboat journey down from the city center, the Cu Chi tunnel complex was initially started in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. The tunnels also served as communication routes, storage facilities for food and weapon caches as well as hospitals and living quarters for guerrilla fighters throughout the American war. 

A visit to the underground villages will provide a better understanding of how the tunnels were constructed, the hardship of life in the tunnels, and the Vietnamese resilience during combat.

Saigon Saigon Bar Caravelle Hotel Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Saigon at the Caravelle Hotel

While most of the above sites would make for a rather sobering visit, this place does the opposite! The legendary ‘Saigon Saigon’ bar on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel was the favored watering hole of Vietnam War correspondents all throughout the war. Its downtown location and uninterrupted views across the city offered the perfect spot to trade stories while looking out at the fighting still visible on the fringes of the city. 

Continuously open since 1959, the bar is still a fine venue at one of the city’s best luxury hotels. There is a daily happy hour from 18:00 to 20:00, a full food, wine, and cocktail menu, and live music usually on offer later on in the evenings. The perfect spot to unwind and reflect after a busy day of sightseeing!

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